Rabbi Avi Weiss & Containing Extremists of the Rabbinical Council of America

In recent weeks, Rabbi Avraham Gordimer, a leader of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) has written multiple factually-inaccurate articles against prominent American Jewish Orthodox Rabbi Avi Weiss. Rather than the harsh, and ugly words this man is speaking to Avi Weiss, the 1st words out of his mouth should have been: “Thank you. Thank You Reb Avi for all you have done for Am Israel.”

If Gordimer has words or criticism for Avi Weiss, he should consider picking up the phone, or emailing and have a private discussion rather than these public rants which do nothing to solve the issue he purports to be so angry about. Rabbi Avi Weiss, the heroic American Jewish Rabbi who has helped Jews worldwide on so many important issues deserves respect. If a prominent Rabbinical organization has criticism should they not address this in a private forum first?

Gordimers’ rants are logically inconsistent. He criticizes Rabbi Weiss for taking a “halachic argument to inappropriate forums”, and claims newspapers are inappropriate forums for these discussions.  Since then he has been on an intense PR campaign, writing multiple hateful op-eds in recent weeks blasting his fellow American Orthodox Rabbi. Talk about a pot calling the kettle black?

While there are countless factual errors in Gordimers’ long-winded op-eds, the facts are clear: The Israeli Rabbinate recently rejected a letter by Weiss vouching for the Jewish credentials of an American couple seeking to wed in Israel. One wonders which of the religious authorities in America are responsible for disallowing his letters? Do they similarly disallow, say, the letters from Rabbis who are child molesters? Or, say tax cheats? Or is it only Rabbis with whom they have ideological disputes? An Orthodox Rabbi who is a graduate of Yeshiva University cannot verify one is Jewish? Where is that ordained and by whose halacha? Is there a list of good Rabbis that the RCA works out with the Israeli Chief Rabbinate?

Gordimer continually references Avi Weiss’ confidants, and graduates of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah  (YCT) and issues they take stances on as proof of his purported viewpoints.   Is the man to be held responsible for the viewpoints Rabbinical graduates of his institution take?

Following that logic, the “Honorary President” of RCA, Rabbi Shmuel Goldin of Englewood, N.J. was a supporter of the Oslo peace process which is responsible for the death of tens of thousands of Jews. Lest one forget, none other than Rabbi Moshe Tendler opposed Goldin’s appearance in Monsey, N.Y., criticizing Goldin saying it was a “desecration of God’s name for an Orthodox rabbi to present a position that is contrary to Torah law.” Tendler accused Goldin of being “in denial of a fundamental axiom of Judaism: You cannot sacrifice a Jew today in order to save many Jews tomorrow.”  Where does Gordimer’s logic leave one if examining Rabbi Tendler’s criticism?  Surely, Goldin’s ability to verify Jews as Jewish should be taken away as a result of Tendler’s criticism, right?

Rabbi Gordimer’s op-eds lead one to believe that the RCA is sending a message to American Jewish Orthodox Rabbis. If you don’t support us and stand with us, we will black-ball you.  If they don’t pay dues, will Rabbis’ be denied the right to recognize Jews? What is the limit?

The Chief Rabbinate is out of touch and extreme – as is the RCA. Seemingly, these brothers in arms believe that as Rabbi Avi Weiss wrote coercion is the way that works best – as Built into the very fabric of the institution is the principle of kefiyah, rabbis overlording the citizenry, forcing their religious dictates down their throats.”

Rabbi Gordimer: For the sake of clal Israel, and the betterment of the Jewish people, cease your public criticism of Rabbi Avi Weiss.   Think about ways to solve the many issues and problems of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel rather than attacking a man who is proposing solutions. Think about how Jews respond to coercion and force, and consider rather the ways of love and Am Israel. (Of course, if the RCA was to focus their vast energies on solving the many issues facing American Jewry we read about in the Pew Report, it’d be even better.)

When Rabbi Goldin became head of the organization, he described his main role as “making the RCA more relevant to the Jewish community at large… as opposed to the way we’re often perceived.” He added “part of vibrant Judaism is dealing with change by facing challenges. That makes you relevant. I want the RCA to be relevant to Judaism and Jewry, and we can only do that by facing the world squarely.”

Goldin stated that he would make more effort to be more welcoming to people on the Orthodox left and prevent rifts in the community. He said “I do see the extremes becoming more extreme,” and “There is tremendous tension in the community, both from the left and from the right.” In such circumstances, he said, “the issue of trying to hold the community together becomes extremely important. I would find it unfortunate if we were to split into splinters.”He added, “I believe that we can hold the community together.”

The RCA must step up and stop these Rabbinical extremists. Why not talk to fellow Rabbis with decency and respect? Will more Jews become closer to Judaism as the result of Rabbi Gordimer’s public rebukes? Is this how spiritual people should talk?

Rabbi Avi Weiss should be welcomed and encouraged in the RCA fold, as his viewpoints likely represent the “moral majority” of Modern Orthodox American Jewry. This Orthodox Rabbi is one who understands as he wrote “As the motto goes, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Thank you Avi Weiss for standing up yet again for the best interests of the Jewish people.

About the Author
Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President & Chief Executive Officer of 5WPR. Headquartered in New York City, the firm is one of the 25 largest independent public relations firms in the United States. 5WPR has been named “PR Agency of the Year” by the American Business Awards; and Ronn Torossian is the winner of the Silver Stevie Communications, Investor Relations, and PR Executive of the Year of the Year Award by the American Business Awards. Ronn’s book, “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations,” received rave reviews. He is a member of the prestigious Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and is an active board member of a number of non-profit organizations. Ronn Torossian is a frequently sought after communications expert, often appearing on FOX News, CNBC, Huffington Post, Time Magazine, and other major media outlets. He resides on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with his family. Email: Facebook: Ronn's Facebook Twitter: Ronn's Twitter Page